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Giving back through backpacks

How one of our favorite causes helps feed hungry kids … and gives us elementary-school flashbacks.

Some backpacks pack more punch than others.

We recently participated in a Giving Back initiative involving backpacks, which made me remember my all-time favorite: the hot pink thread, the pseudo-embroidery and that sparkling, bodacious red puff paint spelling out my name. Oh, yes — that was just the beginning of my life as a designer, and I couldn't wait to get to school and strut the halls.

Here at Emma, of course, we appreciate function as much as style, and our friends at Feeding America have taught us how a backpack can truly transform a child's life, and not just with puff paint or even books. They're using backpacks to feed hungry kids.

Formerly known as America's Second Harvest, Feeding America is a hunger-relief nonprofit that supplies more than two billion pounds of food and grocery products to hungry families each year. In 1995, they launched a backpack program that sends deserving kids home with non-perishable food items to help them stay nourished throughout the weekend. Most children who qualify for reduced or free lunches often struggle through those two days without sufficient supplements, and a backpack full of food is a discreet way to help.

When we heard about the initiative, we knew we wanted to get involved. We had an upcoming sponsorship at the annual SXSW Interactive conference, and we wanted to give those conference-goers a way to get to know us and also to support a worthy cause. So we proposed a plan to fill 1,000 backpacks with the help of the attendees — to be specific, it was a plan to super-awesomify the backpacks — and then we let the rest of the world in on the plan as well.

Anyone and everyone could super-awesomify a backpack with flames, mustaches and more. And once we reached 1,000 super-awesomifications, we started the process of funding several Feeding America backpack programs. We picked the food banks closest to our Emma offices, so that means we got in touch with the organizations in Denver, CO; Nashville, TN; Victoria, TX; Spokane, WA; and Minola, NY (those last three are the ones closest to our offices in Austin, Portland and New York City).

We think this backpack program takes an innovative approach to a difficult problem, and we're so pleased to be involved. If you'd like to learn more, click here to find a backpack program near you. And if you'd like to see some of those super-awesomified backpacks, you can view them online at, hot pink embroidery and all.

Feeding America's backpack program
More about Emma's Giving Back program